New data commissioned by a left-leaning Christian activist group and compiled by several university researchers suggests that there could be an 11-point swing among evangelical and Catholic voters in swing states away from President Donald Trump and toward Democrat Joe Biden.
Vote Common Good, a voter mobilization nonprofit that has been holding events in swing states this fall in an effort to persuade evangelicals not to vote for Trump, released the results of the new survey called the “Presidential Candidate Vice and Virtue Poll: Swing State Evangelical and Catholic Perceptions of Donald J. Trump and Joseph R. Biden.”
The poll claims to be the largest survey of swing state faith voters in the 2020 cycle.
The data is made up of responses from 1,430 respondents who are registered to vote and reside in one of five swing states: Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. They were interviewed between Aug. 11 and Aug. 26.
The survey was designed and analyzed by a team of behavioral scientists representing institutions such as Duke University, the University of Maryland, the University of Southern California and the University of North Carolina.
“The 2020 election is currently on track to produce an 11% swing towards Biden compared with 2016 among Evangelicals and Catholics, averaging across both Christian denominations and all 5 swing states surveyed,” an analysis of the data states.
In 2016, exit polls indicated that 50% of Catholics nationwide said they voted for Trump, while only 46% said they voted for then-Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton. While 59% of Protestants surveyed in exit polls said they voted for Trump in 2016, only 36% said they voted for Clinton. As for white evangelicals, exit polls showed that 81% voted for Trump and only 16% voted for Clinton.
Among swing state Catholics, the new report suggests that 2020 is on track to produce a 16% swing toward Biden, who himself is Catholic. The report suggests that there will be a 7-point swing in favor of Biden when it comes to evangelicals in the five battleground states.
The poll comes after the Biden campaign said it planned to make more of an effort to reach out to voters of faith than the Clinton campaign had in 2016. Additionally, NeverTrump conservative groups have also spent millions on advertising in an attempt to convince voters of faith that they should not vote to re-elect Trump.
The poll also asked respondents how they evaluated Trump and Biden against seven biblical virtues and sins. According to the study, the perception that Trump lacks “basic Christian kindness is the strongest driver of defecting from Trump in 2020.”
The poll suggests that seven out of the top eight predictors of Trump 2016 voters defecting “concern Trump’s perceived absence of Christian virtues.”
“Furthermore, disaffected Trump voters may generally be willing to forgive the president’s perceived sins, but not his perceived lack of basic kindness,” the analysis reads. “This pattern was consistent across both Catholics and Evangelicals, as well as across males and females. It was also present for younger and older respondents alike, but especially strong among older respondents, who are especially likely to defect from Trump because of a perceived lack of Christian virtue.”
About half of the respondents rated Biden as “more virtuous” than Trump while 39% rated Trump as more virtuous than Biden.
About 46% of evangelicals and Catholics said they have a more favorable opinion of Biden than they had of Clinton, while only 11% said they have a more favorable opinion of Clinton than Biden.
For Catholics, the biggest defections from Trump in the survey came in North Carolina (22% swing), Pennsylvania (20% swing) and Wisconsin (17% swing).
As for evangelicals, the data indicates the biggest defections from Trump in Florida (13% swing), North Carolina (9% swing) and Michigan (7% swing).
“Trump’s lack of kindness will likely cost him the election,” Vote Common Good Executive Director Pastor Doug Pagitt, of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis and a prominent evangelical Trump critic, said in a statement. “Four years ago, many religious voters decided to look the other way and give Trump a chance, but after witnessing his cruelty and corruption, some of them are searching for an off-ramp.”
Some conservative Christians have shot down the argument that 2020 will see a percentage of Christian voters leaving Trump for Biden. Conservatives note that Trump has accomplished many of the promises he laid out to Christian conservative supporters before his 2016 election in regard to abortion, federal judges, Israel and religious freedom.
“In 2016, then-candidate Trump was running purely on his rhetorical statements and never held office, so there was no track record to point to,” Tim Head, executive director of the national grassroots organization Faith & Freedom Coalition, which is spending millions to drive conservative evangelical and Catholic turnout in 2020, told The Christian Post last week.
“Some people thought that was smoke and mirrors and he was going to deviate from the stuff he was promising on the stump. But honestly, he has delivered. It's been one thing after another.”
As far as Catholics go, Head acknowledged that the Biden campaign has been more proactive than the Clinton campaign in targeting faith voters.
“That is not saying a lot because literally, the Clinton campaign did not have one single staff member that was dedicated to the faith vote,” Head said. “There has at least been a nominal effort to try to reach out to the faith vote, particularly the Catholic vote. But it didn’t help when some Catholic bishops and priests have denied sacraments to Biden because of his stances on life and religious liberty. He is trying to make a better case at least than the Clinton campaign did, but it has yet to be seen how well that is going to be.”
The survey also asked respondents who they think Jesus would vote for in the 2020 presidential election. The results were divided.
“Across Evangelicals and Catholics, 28% say Jesus would vote for Donald Trump in 2020 and 27% say that he would vote for Joe Biden,” the analysis states.
About 23% said Jesus would not vote and 22% said Jesus would be equally likely to vote for either candidate or they didn’t know.